Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism
van Roojen (Mark)
Source: Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Non-cognitivism is a variety of irrealism about ethics with a number of influential variants. Non-cognitivists agree with error theorists that there are no moral properties or moral facts. But rather than thinking that this makes moral statements false, noncognitivists claim that moral statements are not in the business of predicating properties or making statements which could be true or false in any substantial sense. Roughly put, noncognitivists think that moral statements have no truth conditions. Furthermore, according to non-cognitivists, when people utter moral sentences they are not typically expressing states of mind which are beliefs or which are cognitive in the way that beliefs are. Rather they are expressing non-cognitive attitudes more similar to desires, approval or disapproval.
  2. Cognitivism is the denial of non-cognitivism. Thus it holds that moral statements do express beliefs and that they are apt for truth and falsity. But cognitivism need not be a species of realism since a cognitivist can be an error theorist and think all moral statements false. Still, moral realists are cognitivists insofar as they think moral statements are apt for truth and falsity and that many of them are in fact true.

  1. A More Detailed General Description
    … 1.1 Two Negative Constitutive Non-cognitivist Claims
    … 1.2 Cognitivism
    … 1.3 Contrast with Cognitivist Subjectivism
  2. Principal Varieties in More Detail
    … 2.1 Emotivism
    … 2.2 Prescriptivism
    … 2.3 Quasi-realism
    … 2.4 Norm-expressivism
    … 2.5 Borderline cases
  3. Motivations for Non-cognitivism
    … 3.1 The Open Question Argument
    … 3.2 Naturalism
    … 3.3 Motivational internalism and the action-guiding character of moral judgments
    … 3.4 Supervenience1
  4. Problems, Objections and Response Strategies
    … 4.1 The Embedding Problem
    … 4.2 The Wishful Thinking Objection
    … 4.3 Non-cognitivism and Relativism
    … 4.4 Capturing The Varieties of Normative Ethical Theories Within A Non-cognitivist Metaethic
  5. Can The Cognitivist/Non-cognitivist Distinction Be Sustained?
    … 5.1 Sophisticated Non-cognitivism vs. Sophisticated Cognitivist Relativism
    … 5.2 Minimalism as Undermining Non-cognitivism
    … 5.3 Non-cognitivist Overreaching and Possible Collapse
  6. Conclusion
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Recommended by "Chrisman (Matthew) - Morality: Objective, Subjective or Relative?". First published Fri Jan 23, 2004; substantive revision Sun Jun 7, 2009. For the full text, see Stanford: Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism.

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